500-Pound Man Saved After 12 Hours On River. Crews Use Aluminum Boat As Makeshift Stretcher

UPDATED: 2:55 pm EDT July 17, 2007

GRANTSBURG, Wis. -- A 500-pound man injured while rafting down a shallow stretch of the St. Croix River was pulled to safety Tuesday by dozens of rescue workers who spent hours carrying him to a navigable part of the waterway.

Martin Rike, 39, of Pine City, Minn., was treated at the Burnett Medical Center in Grantsburg 12 hours after authorities first received reports that he had run aground.

Rike was rafting alone Monday afternoon about 70 miles northeast of Minneapolis and some 370 miles northwest of Milwaukee when he experienced an unspecified health problem, said Chief Deputy Steve Ovick of the Pine County Sheriff's Office. Rike left his raft and began walking but tumbled on the slippery, irregular rocks and injured an ankle and knee.

Rike's family called authorities around 8:15 p.m. Monday, concerned that he was overdue, Ovick said.

A helicopter crew spotted him and directed ground rescuers to him, but their boats and canoes got stuck because the river was only 2 inches deep in that area, Ovick said.

Rescuers labored unsuccessfully to reach Rike, first with an all-terrain vehicle and then a hovercraft.

"Every resource we had simply did not work until got down to physical manpower," Ovick said. "The aircraft that found him said they could not lift that amount of weight."

Eventually authorities managed to load Rike into an aluminum boat.

"There wasn't enough water for it to float, so they physically used that as a stretcher," Ovick said.

Some 40 to 50 rescuers took turns hoisting the boat, carrying it 2 feet at a time until they found a spot in the river deep enough for the boat to float down to a waiting ambulance.

"It was very taxing. It was probably 70 degrees and the humidity was very high last night," Ovick said. "Lifting him, moving 2 feet at a time, you get tired real quick with 600 pounds of cargo."

Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press.


Just glad it wasn't my rescue.